East of Ocala, this 67-mile section of the 1,300-mile Florida National Scenic Trail system is a subtropical showcase of hardwood hammocks, cypress swamps, and cabbage-palm thickets that can be hiked in four to five days. Starting at Rodman Dam, go south through sandpine scrub and longleaf wiregrass--habitat for bobcat and red-cockaded woodpeckers--to Lake Delancy, at mile seven. From there head 15 miles into the wetlands of Hopkins Prairie to Juniper Springs, Charles Lake, and some 60 other natural ponds (boardwalks keep you dry through most of the wet stuff). The final segment traverses sandhills and scrub, leading you to Clearwater Lake.
To reach the trailhead from Ocala, take SR 40 east 11 miles to CR 314, drive 18 miles to SR 19, and head north to Rodman Dam (about 70 miles from Orlando). Hikers are welcome to park their cars on the southern end at Clearwater Lake, off CR 42.
Note: both black bears and alligators can be found within the Ocala National Forest.